Out of balance

There is often a clash between an aspiration to be tolerant and respectful, and a negative opinion about what some other people believe or do.

Two human values come into conflict here: the desire to live and let live, and the desire to criticise. Neither is wrong; it’s just that there’s a tension and an awkward compromise between the two.

I’m increasingly reaching a point, though, where the tension is more than I can handle. I am tired. Tired of treading on eggshells to avoid hurting people’s sentiments because my thoughts are so devastating to them. Tired of knowing that no-one welcomes my questions when I am not flying the flag of their particular world view. Tired of shallowing myself out and constantly censoring myself incase people find the reality of who I am unpalatable.

I have stretched my understanding around a multitude of perspectives; I have challenged myself to see both the good and the bad in everything. Maybe I have pushed myself out of balance; taken the philosophy of “belonging nowhere” too far.

The truth is it would be nice occasionally to be around people who congratulate me, not fear me, for who I have become.

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13 Responses to Out of balance

  1. Hi Sarah
    We seem to be grappling with the same thing! I don’t know whether the balance lies either and also veer between the two extremes you mention.
    I think you shouldn’t be afraid to express your views yet be wise about who you express them to. There’s no point in talking to those that do not wish to hear, that won’t understand or that will be devastated by your views. I’ve had to realise that not everyone is excited by ideas and the exploration of knowledge. Not everyone wishes to be confronted with truth, and their right to live within comfortable cocoons should be respected. In short, we need to tread carefully, not to avoid offending, but to discover who our fellow travellers are. We have to pick them carefully.
    The reality is, the higher we climb the mountain the colder it gets. It’s a journey only for those that can endure it.

    • Sarah says:

      “Not everyone wishes to be confronted with truth, and their right to live within comfortable cocoons should be respected. In short, we need to tread carefully, not to avoid offending, but to discover who our fellow travellers are. We have to pick them carefully.
      The reality is, the higher we climb the mountain the colder it gets. It’s a journey only for those that can endure it.”

      I agree completely; this makes a lot of sense to me.

  2. Becky says:

    I’m in agreement with Graham, and this is an issue I struggle with myself. I find myself shutting up at times, when I feel I ought to speak up against others narrow-mindedness and prejudiced outlooks, but I’ve also been criticized for being too open, too outspoken, too aggressive and too “in-your-face”.

    I do love a good, honest, open discussion. I always try to be respectful of other people’s opinions, but the narrow-mindedness, prejudiced minds, blatant racism, of some people makes it difficult at times.

    I think it’s very difficult, but also very important to find a balance where you do not shut up, when you ought to speak out, but also, do not keep talking, when you ought to let other people be and respect the differences.

    • Sarah says:

      Yes… and it’s the same old narrow-mindedness and prejudice that shows up everywhere, in every different world view there is. As you say, difficult to find a constructive level to debate at but v important!

  3. HMJ says:

    Sarah, perhaps it has to be acknowledged that you are one of life’s ‘elite’! You have been blessed with good genes, good education and good life experiences (a year living and working in Malawi, and marriage to a Muslim) All of which have helped to shape and inform your critical and open thinking.

    The way I see it is that there are 2 routes this ‘different’ thinking could take you.
    Firstly, if you want to surround yourself with like-minded people, you probably have to pussy foot in the ‘trying people out’, as you say, and then basically shut up when you’re around people you suspect to be narrow minded.
    I guess that’s the least stressful route.
    The other route would be to really push the comfort zone and act as a kind of beacon to human understanding, tolerance, even moral direction.
    I mean it just strikes me as a waste if enlightened people like you are almost forced into silence by the ignorant masses.
    How it’s done is another question. No-one will listen or interact with a message that is being spat at them in a dogmatic, aggressive way.
    But I can see what you’re saying about always seeming to have to be the diplomatic one, as dogmatic certainly isn’t your style.
    Maybe you just have to choose your contacts carefully.However that’s not much help if you find yourself in company which is spouting biased, racist,ignorant stuff.
    Maybe you need to develop a stronger sense of your own beliefs being supremely valid, so that other’s ignorance, and unwillingness to listen, doesn’t distress you so much. Getting used to quietly and succintly expressing your view, and being happy to leave it at that, whilst not expecting any positiveness from others, might be the way to go?

    No matter how tough the going gets though, and I know you would never be smug, don’t forget that you are the one who is living in the light, and that’s quite a privilege, and perhaps even a position of responsibility.

    • Sarah says:

      I think I crave enjoyable and supportive conversations about ideas, and also enjoy constructive challenging dialogue. I am confusing the two, though, I think. They are different.

      What I am lacking is the supportive element. There are plenty of people to get mutually pissed off with. There are also a lot of lovely people who have beliefs that I don’t have but who don’t offend me, and I have tended to look for fellow travellers among them… but I still end up feeling that I am spoiling all the fun for them. I guess I haven’t realised until now that I may actually need affirmation of my own views from time to time.

      Or maybe I just need to take a break from all this and have some mindless fun for a change!

  4. LK says:

    This happens to us all who have a more open viewpoint. When I am confronted with people who are very narrow minded I try to first stop and listen to what they are saying. I try to understand where their point is coming from so I can respond calmly and properly. But it is hard, extremely hard. If someone is bashing people it certainly puts me on edge. Its rough but its how it is. I try not to bring up religion or philosophy around people who will have a narrow mind view on the subject unless I think that can do more than just go “Negate what you said. My view is right.” Because if you run into this no matter what you say or do it won’t open up a productive conversation. They are a negative wall that you can’t cross. And sometimes you just have to walk away from those people and leave them with what you have said. Just hope it sinks into their closed off brains.

    • Sarah says:

      “And sometimes you just have to walk away from those people and leave them with what you have said. Just hope it sinks into their closed off brains.”

      Yes, I often think like that. You just never know how much of an impact you may have made!

  5. It’s nice to know I am not the only person who struggles with this. Affirmation of my views, particularly when it comes to some pretty important decisions, would be nice – I sometimes wonder if it is because I project an image of a self-assured confident person that I don’t get the approval and confirmation that I, at times, crave.

  6. susanne430 says:

    Maybe I am one of the narrow-minded people in your life, but I hope I don’t make you feel unwelcome. I always enjoy your point of view and the discussions and challenges you bring to light when you share honestly and openly (or maybe you were suppressing yourself out of kindness and not sharing what you really feel?) For instance, I enjoyed the talk on Amber’s blog yesterday and sharing ideas. I’ve always appreciated your respectfulness in dealing with folks like me and I have learned quite much from you. Maybe I fail to say it enough, but I am grateful for your presence in my life.

    • Sarah says:

      I enjoy those discussions too. I definitely don’t consider you narrow-minded! You are one of the few religious people that still talk to me for a start!! You are also pretty unique with your interest and understanding of the middle east and Islam. I can see that you enjoy a diversity of perspectives, like I do. I’m certainly glad I got to know you. 🙂

      Maybe we all need a balance in our lives… some interesting other perspectives, and some affirming like-minds. I guess I’m just feeling a bit out of balance lately.

  7. Pingback: That which has become my God « Tazaqqa

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